Deep work, stoically commented summary.

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Cal Newport.

“Life is long, if you know how to use it.”
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

First things first.

Let’s talk about opportunity cost because this term is central in the entire book but, weirdly, it doesn’t mention it at all.

OK, opportunity cost can be defined as the cost you incur in whenever you neglect any activity for another one, for practical matters, usually an activity that could’ve made your life better if you’d had decided to take it,

Some examples:

  • Every time you decide to watch Facebook instead of reading a book. Wisdom opportunity lost.
  • Every time you watch Netflix instead of going to the gym, health opportunity lost.
  • Every time you are bitter and angry at something, enjoyment of life opportunity lost.


“So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not Ill-supplied but wasteful of it.”
Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

You are going to spend most of your life working. This is a good thing, work is the source of meaning in our lives, whether it is your 9-5 job or the book that you are writing on your afternoons.

****** A quick note. Maybe you are not happy in your current 9-5 job. That is irrelevant. If you want to find a more fulfilling job, it’s your responsibility to search for something else you enjoy more. There is absolutely no reason not to apply yourself right now.

Work is also your source of income.

There is a specific type of work that has become as rare as a diamond in the modern economy and as a diamond, it has become just as valuable.

Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive new value, improves your skill, and are hard to replicate.

Some examples of deep work include writing a business plan, writing a book, developing a new program or a new business strategy.

There is an infinite amount of problems in the modern economy, your capacity to learn quickly and solve problems fast will determine your value in the market. If you are distracted all the time you will simply not be able to thrive in the modern economy.

The problem

Some quick facts. We spend on average 60% of work time using networking tools such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, 30% alone on email.

The question here is, what is the opportunity cost of doing so?

People report being as busy as ever and yet, as unproductive as ever, all thanks to this new tools. It’s not just this tools, fundamentally, it can be any distraction you use for not doing your work.

Deep work requires long intervals of time. We are now a generation that is dumbed down in distraction. Immersed in shallow work. 

Shallow Work: Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.

Compulsively answering emails, what’s apps or Facebook messages, scrolling down on Instagram.

Distraction is robbing you of opportunity and possibility.

The opportunity

Your capacity to solve hard problems can also grow if you exercise it, you get better and better but you have to put in the work.

Network tools are distracting us from work that requires undivided attention, unbroken concentrations and simultaneously is degrading our capacity to remain focused.

This problem presents us with an unprecedented opportunity as well.

Think about it.

Everyone is engaged and dumbed down on the network tools, just look around you when walking n the street. The opportunity cost of not spending that precious time working and doing something extremely valuable that the economy will value is massive.

The problem presents the opportunity

The opportunity of prioritizing depth. 

Two most valuable skills in our economy.

  • capacity to concentrate.
  • capacity to learn quickly.

These two skills are scarce.

Imagine what would happen if you’d put all the time you waste in a day into deep work hours? how quickly and far would you get on your goals?

Why is deep work so valuable?

The information economy is extremely complex. The capacity to learn quickly is now fundamental. It presents us with incredible opportunities, for example, if you develop a magnificent book, thanks to social media, it is going to become famous in a few weeks. But there is a downside as well, if your work is mediocre, as most people’s work is, it will simply be discarded for the massive amount of higher quality work available on the web.

To succeed you have to produce the absolute best stuff you’re capable of producing—a task that requires depth. Deep work has become a key currency.

The real rewards are reserved not for those who are comfortable using Facebook (a shallow task, easily replicated), but instead for those who are comfortable building the innovative distributed systems that run the service (a decidedly deep task, hard to replicate). 

The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.  Cal Newport

Examples of deep workers include.

  • Carl Jung built “The Tower” in his summer camp, specifically to work for uninterrupted long intervals a day. He developed analytical psychology after this sessions.
  • Michael de Montaigne in his French chateau.
  • Mark Twain, the family had to literally blow a horn to call him for supper.
  • Woody Allen produced, 44 films with 23 academy award nominations, he never owned a computer, he did it all in a German Olympia sm3 manual typewriter.
  • JK Rowling tweet: read: “This is the real me, but you won’t be hearing from me often I am afraid, as pen and paper is my priority at the moment.”


Types of deep work, where do you fit more? 


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